Ann Althouse comments on an opinion piece in the NYT by Eric Kaufman Americans Are Divided By Their Views On Race, Not Race Itself: It's a crucial difference - and grounds for optimism. Kaufman has an important observation here, and I think he is spot on. He takes as examples whether one thinks The Wall is racist, or whether Northam should resign as questions which liberals take what one would think is the more racially driven view, while minorities have more mixed views - or even trend toward conservatives on the issue.
I think that's right. The division is between what people, especially white people, think about race, rather than color. It is about the competition between those who want to be seen as Goodwhites, and therefore have to work hard to paint their competition as Badwhites, which has been going on since my college years, at minimum. It is an audacious attempt of white liberals to take over even the issue of race as their own, acting on behalf of black people. Or not, seeing as the black people aren't quite so convinced of this. So, credit given to Mr Kaufman for an astute observation that I think is important to hold onto going forward.
Also, Kaufman gets all the way to the third paragraph before dragging in the "Trump Era," which is a remarkable display of self-control one doesn't often see these days.
I saw two main difficulties with the "Americans are Divided" piece, and Althouse hits both of them. Kaufman asserts "Ideological differences... are less polarizing than racial conflict, in which whole communities mobilize against an enemy." Really? Granted that the historically recent conflict between races is quite horrifying, I still think that 100,000,000 (or maybe 200M) dead at the hands off communism in the last hundred years might speak against that. Churchill claimed the actions of the Nazis were "Never surpassed in the dark and lamentable history of human crime," and that was more ideological - in fact also ideological around ideas of race - than about race itself, unless one somehow thinks the Japanese were closer relatives to the Teutons than the Jews, Gypsies, and Slavs. Though not ideological, the Rape of Nanking or Chunking did not occur because the participants were of different race, just different national tribes. The Americans fought a very deadly war about ideas of race more than race itself. Ideology is not safer, certainly, and could be worse.
The other difficulty is that Kaufman believes it is the elites, especially the liberal elites, who can bring us back together on this. I suppose that's true if those elites - his word, not mine - decide to just shut up, rather than being the drivers of division. Yet I doubt that's what Eric Kaufman means. If he does mean that and is trying to put out an incrementalist approach to convincing liberals to turn around without appearing too condemning, then I rescind my complaint. There are psychological and social rewards - sometimes even rewards of opportunity and money - from sowing division.
I am less convinced about Ann's last point about Barack Obama squandering an opportunity to heal division. I have been one who said that after getting off to a great start at the 2004 Democratic Convention on the issues of division and healing, he either reverted or revealed his true colors as president and made things worse. Yet I don't know whether anything he might have done would have made things much better. We ascribe too much power to presidents in these matters. I don't think Clinton made much difference, nor Bush, neither for good nor evil - and I think both tried. I think the forces which are currently dividing us will proceed regardless, and the discussion would not be much different now if McCain or Romney, or Hillary Clinton had been elected.